This is a question I get asked often. I can answer only for myself as I know writers differ greatly from one another on how quickly they can produce a finished book. Even for me it varies. One book a while ago took me a whole year to finish, but another many years back took two weeks! A few people asked on my Facebook page what my daily quota is. It is 2,000 words, and the length of my books is 100,000 words. If you are at all functional with multiplication, you may assume that it therefore takes me fifty days to write a whole book. Not so!

What happens is that, no matter how carefully I try to get to know my characters and their backstory before I begin writing, I discover once they start acting and reacting and talking and thinking on the page that I really don’t know them at all. They keep growing from within. They constantly surprise me. And their backstory, those events that shaped them and loaded them down with all the baggage they have to deal with in the course of the story before they are fully ready to love and be loved–all of that reveals itself and fills itself in with agonizing slowness. But discovering some small thing from the past can make all the difference to the story I am telling. In The Notorious Rake, for example, the heroine’s friend asks her close to the beginning of the book if she realizes that Edmond killed his mother and brother. I remember thinking, “Whoa!” when I saw those words appear on the screen before me. I had no idea she was going to say that. My immediate urge was to erase the words. But I didn’t and they were actually the key to the whole story and the very complex character of the notorious rake. Once these things reveal themselves, of course, I have to go back through the whole book making adjustments accordingly. I often compare getting to know my characters to peeling layers off an onion, but if I really consider that image, it is more the opposite that happens. I spend the whole book piling on the layers so that the reader can have the satisfaction of peeling them off. In other words, like all writers:

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On average, then, a book takes me about four months to write. There are exceptions. The two-week book was A Precious Jewel. The hero, Sir Gerald Stapleton, was a minor character in The Ideal Wife, friend of the hero. He was restless and depressed in that book because his long-time mistress, whom he had taken out of a brothel, had left him to marry someone else and he couldn’t forget her. I found myself haunted by their relationship and wondering if she would go through with her plans to marry someone else or return to him. I longed to write their love story. The trouble was that I was writing Regency romances and there was no way I was going to get away with having a prostitute as a heroine. I tried the idea out on a few writer friends and they gave a unanimous thumbs down. But I couldn’t NOT write the story and it finally poured out of me in a two-week period, after which I put the manuscript up on a shelf for two years because it was unpublishable. Then, on a whim, I sent it in and waited for the verdict. After a long wait, I called my editor to ask about it–and she told me the book was in copyediting!

It would be nice if all books could be written that quickly! Though maybe not. Part of the wonderful thrill of writing is the journey of discovery into two characters destined to love each other to the depths of their souls for long ages after the last page has been written. Although writing can be a painful process, I am not sure I would have it otherwise.



To one randomly chosen person who leaves a comment here before the end of next Tuesday, July 2, I will send a signed copy of either THE IDEAL WIFE or A PRECIOUS JEWEL or A COUNTERFEIT BETROTHAL/THE NOTORIOUS RAKE (winner’s choice). Last week’s winner was Mary T. Congratulations to her, and thank you to all who made comments. As usual, I thoroughly enjoyed reading them.


I’m sure all writers recognize this as the question readers most commonly ask. I wonder if other writers find it as nearly impossible to answer as I do. Most of the time I really don’t know where the ideas come from. I often look back on a finished book, especially one I wrote a number of years ago, and wonder how on earth I came up with that particular plot. I do know, however, what sort of thing might inspire me to write. It can be almost anything that stirs some deep emotion and compels me to write a story from that inner place.

It can be a scene of extraordinary beauty–moonlight on water, perhaps, or giant trees in a rain forest, Or it can be a piece of music. Beethoven’s Violin Concerto can do it every time. So can Louis Armstrong singing What a Wonderful World, And so can the final scene of The Phantom of the Opera after the phantom has allowed Christine to leave with Raoul. That final song just slays me, and every time I hear it I know I have to create a story that will stir such deep passion. Or sometimes it is a line of poetry or a quotation from some well-known person that strikes a chord in me, especially if it is combined with an evocative picture. Take this one, for example:

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I look at this picture and read the caption and want to dive right in to create a love story to bear out its message–people with a past, some of it shared, perhaps, though not necessarily, but people who can have a future together if they work hard enough to deal with all the baggage that holds them back from being able to love and be loved.

I suppose what I am saying is that my stories tend to originate with an emotion, with a desire to use it to tell a love story. The story itself, the plot, is immaterial. I never care too much what happens in a story. All the plot is needed for is to bring together two needy souls in the sort of love we often sense life should be all about. We can believe in the beauty of art in all its many forms. Let us believe in love too. I want to arouse that belief through my books. I do not tell stories, except in the way a musician may use a keyboard or a painter may use a canvas. I do not write romances. I certainly do not write sex romps. I write LOVE stories. Or at least, that is what I aim to do, and my ideas come from my most deeply felt emotions.

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To one randomly chosen person who leaves a comment before the end of next Tuesday, June 25, I will send a signed copy of either SIMPLY LOVE or A SECRET AFFAIR or A PRECIOUS JEWEL (winner’s choice), three of my most passionately felt books. The winner of the audio copy of A MATTER OF CLASS last week was Kathleen Smith.


Everyone loves an alpha hero–a tall, handsome, athletically built, powerful, wealthy, confident male who will fight dragons and other assorted threats for his woman and who will assert his will and take charge and make all right with the world. Oh, and did I forget to mention sexy?

But what about the beta male–the one who is not perfect in height or looks or physique, the one who is quiet and unassuming, not aggressive, not even necessarily very intelligent? And not obviously sexy either (not at first glance, anyway). Can’t he be a hero too? He doesn’t sound very promising material, does he? He seems far better suited to be a secondary character, maybe the heroine’s thoroughly nice friend.

Hang on a minute, though. I have created a number of beta male heroes, and invariably I fall headlong in love with them before I have finished with them. And all men–all people–can be heroic when the opportunity presents itself. There is a wonderful challenge about making a hero out of a beta male–the challenge of taking a very ordinary man, a very believable man, and making him into something extraordinary in the course of his love story.
Consider Paul Villiers, Duke of Mitford, in An Unlikely Duchess, for example. He is small, only pleasant looking, and unassuming in manner. He decides to have a little adventure by traveling incognito to meet his future bride. He ends up having a very big adventure as he chases all over England with the madcap heroine (whom he meets and rescues from a huge and fierce thug on his very first night out), protecting her from harm, recovering her stolen property at great risk to himself, facing down the villain, and–of course–winning both the girl and (I hope) the reader’s heart.
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Then there is Hartley Wade, Marquess of Carew in Lord Carew’s Bride. He is not a big man, and he limps heavily and has one withered arm. He is quiet, sweet-natured, and reclusive. But when he loves, he does so selflessly and steadfastly. And when his lady is threatened by the very man who once crippled him, he challenges the man to a boxing duel, despite the derision of everyone who hears about it–and he devises a way of winning! Lord Carew is one of my most popular heroes with readers.
And there is Sir Gerald Stapleton in A Precious Jewel. Gerald is not particularly handsome or bright. He is quiet and has low self-esteem as a result of childhood and boyhood abuse. But when his “regular” at a brothel is hurt by another client, he takes her away to be his mistress and quietly cares for her and falls in love with her–until she leaves beause she is pregnant. Once he finds out, he moves heaven and earth to find her and convince her to marry him. He thumbs his nose at society in order to do what is right for the woman he loves.
Do you ever enjoy a romance with a beta hero? Do you have any favorites? To one randomly chosen person who leaves a comment before the end of next Tuesday, June 18, I will send an audio copy (CD or MP3-CD–winner’s choice) of my long novella A MATTER OF CLASS, which does NOT have a beta hero but does have my all-time favorite cover! Last week’s winner of THE ARRANGEMENT was Lori Tuckett.


Books are full of them aren’t they–characters who play a minor role and yet arouse your interest or get a raw deal in what is someone else’s story. What can be done with them? If they are part of a series, of course, the plan may be to give them stories of their own. But what if they are not? Or what if they are not among the ones chosen for a leading role in that series? Well, one answer is–give them stories of their own anyway!

I have done it a number of times, sometimes at the request of readers–Lady Angeline Dudley from the first two MISTRESS books, for example, and sometimes on my own initiative. The Bedwyns were created as minor characters in A SUMMER TO REMEMBER–a snooty lot of aristocrats to give Lauren a rough time when she entered a fake engagement with Kit Butler to save him from having to marry Lady Freyja Bedwyn. Thesummerhc4 trouble was, though, that the moment I created them, they wanted to take over the story. I kept having to cut out chunks of writing because this was Kit and Lauren’s love story, not theirs. I had to make the decision to give them a series of their own! And in the Bedwyn series, there were frequent mentions of Miss Claudia Martin, the only governess who ever stood up to Lady Freyja Bedwyn before quitting one day and striding off to set up her own school in Bath (with the help of an unknown benefactor who, unknown to her, was Freyja herself). Miss Martin intrigued me to the extent that after I was finished with the Bedwyns, I wrote the SIMPLY quartet about four of the teachers at her school. Claudia’s story is SIMPLY PERFECT–and her hero is Joseph, Marquess of Attingsborough, another leftover character, a rather gorgeous male who floats around a couple of other books, most notably ONE NIGHT FOR LOVE and A SUMMER TO REMEMBER.


And THE ARRANGEMENT,  a Survivors’ Club book due out at the end of August, has a rather sad leftover character, who appears only in the first chapter and is mentioned once more toward the end. She is a perfectly blameless young lady brought to meet the blind Vincent, Viscount Darleigh, as his prospective bride, but he has not been consulted and he takes frights and flees. It didn’t seem quite fair to Miss Philippa Dean. When my editor asked me to write an e-novella to precede THE ARRANGEMENT, I thought immediately of Philippa and was able to write a story giving her a happily-ever-after. And because I knew at that time that the novella was to be part of the Survivors’ series, I gave her a hero who is also linked to those characters. He is the nephew and heir presumptive of the Duke of Stanbrook. I don’t yet have a cover to show for THE SUITOR. This cover of THE ARRANGEMENT is for the British edition. I love it though the heroine’s hair should be auburn!


Do you like reading about leftover characters? Do you have favorites? Do you have some whose stories you would like to have told?

To one person who leaves a comment before the end of next Tuesday, June 11, I will send yet another autographed copy of the advance reading edition of THE ARRANGEMENT. Last week’s randomly-drawn winner was Bill Boyd. I read and enjoyed all your comments, by the way.